In 2011 the Russian mobile operator and retailer MTS – one of the two exclusive importers of iPhones to Russia – brought in as many iPhones (for $140.8 million) as it had during all the years dating back to the product’s launch in 2008.
According to the IT and telecom news portal CNews.ru, MTS’s purchases of iPhones amounted to $65.4 million in 2008 and to $79.4 million in 2010 — but to just $3.4 million in 2009, due to the initial commercial failure of the smartphone.
MTS’s sales plan over these years was fulfilled by only 30%. In the absence of operator subsidies, the iPhone’s pricing (starting at $1,000) and positioning as an elite product did much to explain the poor sales record.
The recent improvement can be explained by the popularity of the iPhone 4, which launched in September 2010 on the local market, while the price of the former models – 3G and 3GS – decreased significantly.
iPhone sales have also been favored by the deployment of 3G networks, which became accessible to large population groups only in 2010 and 2011.
An oligopolistic conspiracy?
The picture was darkened last week by the Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS), which ruled that MTS and Vimpelcom – the other major mobile operator sharing the import monopoly with MTS – had conspired to overprice the iPhone 4 on the Russian market. The two operators now face a fine of up to 15% of their respective iPhone sales, CNews.ru reported.
Vimpelcom and MTS have purportedly kept the average smartphone price of $1,000 unchanged since September 2010, the FAS believes.
The authority ruled, however, that both perpetrators have “voluntarily remedied the consequences of their wrongdoing.” It remains unclear how they have done so since neither has received any formal written ruling from the FAS.
In an exchange with CNews.ru, Vimpelcom denied the allegations, saying iPhone 4 pricing has always been purely market-driven. MTS also said prices are determined by market conditions but declined to comment specifically on the antimonopoly authority’s accusations.
This post has been originally published by East-West Digital news. ArcticStartup has a partnership with the site and does content exchange and collaboration to bring you more coverage to and from Russia.
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Launched in 2011, East-West Digital News is the first all English-language online resource dedicated to the Russian IT and innovation scene. The site provides news, events, market data, business tools and updates related to Internet, e-commerce, mobile and telecoms, digital TV and satellite systems, software and hardware innovation. www.ewdn.com